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Last Hammer thriller from writer/director Jimmy Sangster
on June 1, 2003
Hammer referred to them as "mini-Hitchcock's". Fear in the Night is the last in a series of fine thrillers Hammer made during their long successful run. Director/writer Jimmy Sangster (screenwriter on Horror of Dracula, Curse and Revenge of Frankenstein among many others)creates a fine atmospheric thriller.
The story centers around a young woman (Judi Geeson) who has recently had a nervous break down and a one armed man that may or may not be still stalking her. Her husband (Ralph Bates) is given a post at a new boy's school. The stalkings continue and she suspects at one point that the headmaster (nicely played by Peter Cushing in a glorified cameo)may have something to do with all that's going on. Joan Collins also appears as the flirty headmaster's wife.
Adapted from a script that Sangster had sold to Universal years before, Fear in the Night has been seldom seen since its initial release in 1972. While it isn't the best thriller produced by Hammer, it recaptures some of the studio's more atmospheric productions from the early to mid-60's. The cinematography is evocative and helps create both the mood and tension of the piece. While Hammer puttered on for a number of years after Fear in the Night was produced, it was truly the last strong production from the studio. When it was released it was paired with another thriller Straight On Till Morning and the double bill failed to find an audience. Shortly after its release, Jimmy Sangster and Hammer severed their long partnership. It's a pity as Fear is an intelligent suspense thriller the type that Hollywood has forgotten how to produce.
The DVD transfer is crisp althought I found the colors to be a little washed out. Given the stock used and the time when the film was produced, it's not that much of a surprise. Still, the print is clean and in almost prisitine condition all things considered.
The DVD also has a running commentary by writer/director Jimmy Sangster that is most enlightening. He provides both the context within which the film was produced at Hammer and a good overview as to why it may have failed to find an audience. Given that it came out around the same time as Hitch's brutal Frenzy, it probably suffered in comparison.